Book Marks

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The best movie adaptations of famous books according to the Stylist.

Oscar-nominated director Darren Aronofsky’s list of his best books on film making.

Essential reading on the movie industry according to the Hollywood Reporter.

The Vulture’s list on the 100 best screenwriters.

Good Reads’ list of essential biographies, autobiographies and memoirs written by old school movie stars.

Good Reads’ list on film reviewing that movie buffs should read.

Great movie scenes that took place in libraries.

Great movies scenes that took place in book stores.

Writer Digest’s guide on writing adaptations for film.

The late Ursula K Le Guin’s list on the books that meant the most to her.

 

 

 

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Book of Love: Meryl Streep

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I’ve been a fan of Meryl Streep since I was a young girl. And as a writer and a freelance journalist who has written about arts, culture and entertainment from all over the globe, I want to say her Golden Globe’s speech made me puff up with pride and gratitude. Here is  a transcript of Ms. Streep’s speech, h/t The New York Times:

Please sit down. Thank you. I love you all. You’ll have to forgive me. I’ve lost my voice in screaming and lamentation this weekend. And I have lost my mind sometime earlier this year, so I have to read.

Thank you, Hollywood Foreign Press. Just to pick up on what Hugh Laurie said: You and all of us in this room really belong to the most vilified segments in American society right now. Think about it: Hollywood, foreigners and the press.

But who are we, and what is Hollywood anyway? It’s just a bunch of people from other places. I was born and raised and educated in the public schools of New Jersey. Viola was born in a sharecropper’s cabin in South Carolina, came up in Central Falls, Rhode Island; Sarah Paulson was born in Florida, raised by a single mom in Brooklyn. Sarah Jessica Parker was one of seven or eight kids in Ohio. Amy Adams was born in Vicenza, Italy. And Natalie Portman was born in Jerusalem. Where are their birth certificates? And the beautiful Ruth Negga was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, raised in London — no, in Ireland I do believe, and she’s here nominated for playing a girl in small-town Virginia.

Ryan Gosling, like all of the nicest people, is Canadian, and Dev Patel was born in Kenya, raised in London, and is here playing an Indian raised in Tasmania. So Hollywood is crawling with outsiders and foreigners. And if we kick them all out you’ll have nothing to watch but football and mixed martial arts, which are not the arts.

They gave me three seconds to say this, so: An actor’s only job is to enter the lives of people who are different from us, and let you feel what that feels like. And there were many, many, many powerful performances this year that did exactly that. Breathtaking, compassionate work.

But there was one performance this year that stunned me. It sank its hooks in my heart. Not because it was good; there was nothing good about it. But it was effective and it did its job. It made its intended audience laugh, and show their teeth. It was that moment when the person asking to sit in the most respected seat in our country imitated a disabled reporter. Someone he outranked in privilege, power and the capacity to fight back. It kind of broke my heart when I saw it, and I still can’t get it out of my head, because it wasn’t in a movie. It was real life. And this instinct to humiliate, when it’s modeled by someone in the public platform, by someone powerful, it filters down into everybody’s life, because it kinda gives permission for other people to do the same thing. Disrespect invites disrespect, violence incites violence. And when the powerful use their position to bully others we all lose. O.K., go on with it.

O.K., this brings me to the press. We need the principled press to hold power to account, to call him on the carpet for every outrage. That’s why our founders enshrined the press and its freedoms in the Constitution. So I only ask the famously well-heeled Hollywood Foreign Press and all of us in our community to join me in supporting the Committee to Protect Journalists, because we’re gonna need them going forward, and they’ll need us to safeguard the truth.

One more thing: Once, when I was standing around on the set one day, whining about something — you know we were gonna work through supper or the long hours or whatever, Tommy Lee Jones said to me, “Isn’t it such a privilege, Meryl, just to be an actor?” Yeah, it is, and we have to remind each other of the privilege and the responsibility of the act of empathy. We should all be proud of the work Hollywood honors here tonight.

As my friend, the dear departed Princess Leia, said to me once, take your broken heart, make it into art.

And here is Ms. Davis’s introduction for Ms. Streep:

She stares. That’s the first thing you notice about her. She tilts her head back with that sly suspicious smile, and she stares for a long time. And you think: Do I have something in my teeth? Or does she wanna kick my [expletive] — which is not gonna happen?

And then she’ll ask questions. “What’d you do last night, Viola?”

“Oh I cooked an apple pie.”

“Did you use Pippin apples?”

“Pippin apples, what the hell are Pippin apples? I used Granny Smith apples.”

“Oh. Did you make your own crust?”

“No, I used store-bought crust. That’s what I did.”

“Then you didn’t make an apple pie, Viola.”

“Well that’s because I spent all my time making my collard greens. I make the best collard greens. I use smoked-turkey chicken broth and my own special sauce.”

Silence. I shut her down.

“Well, they don’t taste right unless you use ham hocks. If you don’t use ham hocks it doesn’t taste the same. So how’s the family?”

And as she continues to stare you realize that she sees you. And like a high-powered scanning machine she’s recording you. She is an observer and a thief. She waits to share what she has stolen on that sacred place, which is the screen. She makes the most heroic characters vulnerable, the most known familiar, the most despised relatable. Dame Streep. Her artistry reminds us of the impact of what it means to be an artist, which is to make us feel less alone. I can only imagine where you go, Meryl, when you disappear into a character. I imagine that you’re in them, patiently waiting, using yourself as a conduit, encouraging them, coaxing them to release all their mess, expose, to live. You are a muse. Your impact encouraged me to stay in the line.

Dame Streep, I see you. I see you. And you know all those rainy days we spent on the set of “Doubt”? Every day my husband would call me at night and say, “Did you tell her how much she means to you?”

And I said, “No, I can’t say anything, Julius, I’m just nervous. All I do is stare at her all the time.”

He said, “Well, you need to say something. You’ve been waiting all your life to work with this woman. Say something.”

I said, “Julius, I’ll do it tomorrow.”

“O.K. you better do it tomorrow because when I get there I’m going to say something!”

I haven’t said anything. But I’m gonna say it now. You make me proud to be an artist. You make me feel that what I have in me, my body, my face, my age, is enough. You encapsulate that great Émile Zola quote that if you ask me as an artist what I came into this world to do, I, an artist, would say, I came to live out loud.

Book Reviews: Ladies in Shiny Pants by Jill Soloway

41dcpgjyexl-_sx324_bo1204203200_Upon her Sunday night triumph, I just had to dust off this review of Jill Solaway’s book Ladies in Shiny Pants from one of my now-defunct blogs. Enjoy!

Jill Soloway is a talented screenwriter, director, and TV show creator who has written for television shows like Six Feet Under, Grey’s Anatomy, The United States of Tara and most recently, the critically acclaimed Transparent. And this past Sunday, Soloway won a much-deserved Emmy for best director for directing an episode of Transparent.

Along with her sister, Faith, Jill has written the live shows The Real Live Brady Bunch and The Vagina Pageant. She’s a professional colleague and friends with Diablo Cody and has written for several anthologies. And in 2005, Jill’s collection of essays Tiny Ladies in Shiny Pants: Based on a True Story was published.

In Tiny Ladies in Shiny Pants, Jill tells us about her younger years growing up in the Chicago in the only white and Jewish family in the neighborhood, and the years that followed. At only 13, Jill and her friends would don their tightest, shiniest clothes and go to concerts hoping to meet their rock and roll heroes. Jill figured if she met her favorite musician, he would see past her young age, and fall madly in love with her. Of course, her rock and roll dreams never came true, and thusly, led her on a path of romantic confusion

A few years later, Jill loses her virginity to an older man. This doesn’t destroy her, yet she readily admits that her vulnerability and feeling less-than her prettier friends made it easy for this man to get her into bed before she was truly ready for such intimacy. However, Jill does show a sense of humor about the entire situation, later calling this guy “Lotion Bag” because he was always asking about a bag he carried around that carried his lotion.

As she gets older, Jill faces the world of being a grown up, and what it is like to be a young woman trying to navigate a post-feminist world, where getting breast implants is supposed to be empowering, yet she can’t help but watch the Miss America pageant year after year. Jill admits she feels some connection to Monica Lewinsky and the murdered intern Chandra Levy. She’s honest about her attraction to both cop bars and guys she calls “toolbelts”-hot construction workers.

Post-college Jill ends up in Los Angeles and finds success as a screenwriter, producer and comedian. But despite her success, she can’t help but snark on the absurdity that is Hollywood and her life.

Jill is funny, honest and very self-deprecating. She doesn’t shy from calling herself a feminist and she’s proud of her Jewish heritage. The over-use of exclamation points can get out of hand at times, but I see this book as a conversation with your excitable friend who uses her hands in conversation a lot. Tiny Ladies in Shiny Pants reminds me a bit of People are Unappealing by Sara Barron, which I reviewed quite a while ago. Tiny Ladies in Shiny Pants is a fun summer read that will make you cringe, make you say, “Right on!” and totally entertain you.

Book Review: In the Company of Legends by Joan Kramer and David Heeley

In the company of legendsStarting in 1980 and lasting until 2005, documentary filmmakers Joan Kramer and David Heeley focused their creative eye on the best and brightest of Hollywood’s golden age. Beginning with Fred Astaire and including documentaries on other film greats like Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, Spencer Tracy, Humphrey Bogart, Katharine Hepburn, Jimmy Stewart, and Henry Fonda, Kramer and Heeley’s documentaries (many shown on PBS) won countless awards. They also allowed viewers to see these movie stars as they really were beyond the calculated machinations of the old studio system.

Now Kramer and Heeley are sharing their notable filmmaking careers, the stars they covered and all the hard work that went into making these documentaries in their hugely entertaining and fascinating book In the Company of Legends.

Kramer and Heeley’s documentaries showcased these stars film legacies, often bringing on other stars to talk about their peers’ notable work. But these documentaries recognized so much more than a movie star’s career. They also covered the anecdotes, opinions, ideas, friendships and odd quirks that made these stars so much more interesting than the glossy veneer of the studios’ publicity machine. And finding the innate humanity behind these movie stars is probably why Kramer and Heeley’s documentaries were so successful and why In the Company of Legends is such a great read.

While reading In the Company of Legends I couldn’t help be reminded why I love classic movies and the stars that made these movies so legendary. What a body of work these amazing talents left the world.

I also really appreciated the sensitive and respectful nature of Kramer and Heeley’s treatment towards their subjects. They are reverent without debasing themselves and their subjects. They never slip into embarrassing and unprofessional squealing fandom. Kramer and Heeley are both fair and firm (not exactly easy considering some of their subjects could be a bit challenging).

While it was fun to take a walk down a celluloid memory lane, I also loved the various personal stories the authors share about the stars. These stories showed more personable and relatable aspects of the stars. Sure, Katharine Hepburn could be a bit prickly, but when someone accidentally dropped some raspberry sauce on her couch, she just turned over the couch cushion-no muss, no fuss. Jimmy Stewart at the time was frail and a bit insecure, but once he put his toupee on top of his head, he regained some confidence and reminded everyone why he was a true star. The regal Audrey Hepburn made couturier Hubert de Givenchy a household name, but loved to kick back in simple sweaters and trousers (and being Audrey Hepburn, made them effortlessly stylishly). And my mom, a long time fan of the late Paul Newman, will be thrilled to know he was a funny, down-to-earth man, and fully devoted to his wife, Joanne Woodward.

I also learned about the lifelong friendships these stars had with each other. Jimmy Stewart and his wife Gloria were friends with President Reagan and the first lady, Nancy Reagan. Judy Garland was close to President Kennedy and would sometimes sing her signature song “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” to him. The oddest and most surprising friendship had to be the one Katharine Hepburn had with Michael Jackson. And she wasn’t exactly thrilled with his vulgar stage moves, and let him know it! Does that surprise you?

Through the In the Company of Legends I also learned about legendary movie mogul Lew Wasserman of MCA/Universal, the controversial theater troupe The Group Theatre, which was accused of being rife with Communists, and character actor John Garfield who you probably best know from the movie “Gentleman’s Agreement.”

Inspired by Kramer and Heeley I will probably treat myself to a classic movie binge some upcoming week-end. And I’m thrilled my local library carries some of Kramer and Heely’s work. You know I’ll be checking them out soon.

As much as I enjoyed reading In the Company of Legends, I couldn’t help but feel a bit of a loss. I know we will never go back to Hollywood’s golden age and the studio system, which is probably a topic for another book.  However, I do feel a sense of melancholy on how fame has been so cheapened in this day of insipid bloggers, reality show cretins and other assorted D-list celebrities. In the Company of Legends reminds the important of talent and hardwork that leads to lasting and deserving fame. One I hope our society can get back to. But nevertheless, thank Joan Kramer and David Heeley. In the Company of Legends is a book I will treasure and turn to again.

Writer’s Block

Hello everyone. Happy first day of March. Can you believe March is already here? January and February just flew by. Like anybody out there I’ve been busy with life. Tomorrow is my birthday, and I’ll be celebrating it by watching the Oscars. Though I haven’t seen a lot of movies lately, I started my writing vocation by writing movie reviews and about film in general, both professionally and personally. Plus, one of my friends and I love to text each other during awards shows, so tomorrow night I’ll be on my couch texting with one of besties about the Oscar telecast. We’re both huge U2 fans so we are positively verklempt that they’ve been nominated for best original song. I hope they win. They should considering it’s my birthday-snerk.

As for this blog, I am currently immersed in a classic and I will write a review of this book for my retro review series. And I picked up a novel at my local library that piqued my interest. I also got an email from Michael Adelberg who wrote Thinking Man’s Bully. His latest literary effort Saving the Hooker is coming out March 21st. As you know, I really liked Thinking Man’s Bully so I’m looking forward to reading Saving the Hooker. Here is a glowing review. Way to go Mr. Adelberg!